His next move in the ‘chess-like’ investigation was to visit the Omega fraternity headquarters. In his college days he remembered being subjected to some pretty extreme hazing. That triggered a hunch about the victim’s unexplained behavior on the night of his death. At the very least it would prove amusing to interview the upperclassmen and put them in the ‘hot seat’ for a change. Hopefully observing their reactions would be revealing too.
“Hello, I’m Detective Phil Breckenridge of the Metro Police Department. I’m conducting personal interviews with people who knew Pete Mathews.”
The young man at the door was confused by the tense of his words. Specifically the word: ‘knew’. “I know Pete.”; He stammered. “What would you like to know? He seems like a great guy to me. Is he in trouble or something?”
Phil surveyed the student’s face for subtle signs of deception. Either he expected an investigator to knock at any moment; or he really didn’t know the victim was dead. He decided that the young man’s level of surprise was too genuine to be put on like a ‘poker face’.
“May I come in?”; He asked. Phil understood the fine art of interviewing a subject. It is very important to avoid giving away key facts or leading the person to possible conclusions. Doing so can cloud what they really know. The more factual details that slip out during the interview compromises the purity of the exchange. Too many detectives are so hyper-focused on getting a suspect that they don’t even care if the person is actually guilty.
He was invited in and took a seat on an overstuffed chair in the corner. The young man was both pleasant and polite but seemed a bit uneasy. Since ordinary people are usually nervous in the presence of law enforcement, his agitated state was a good sign. If he had been completely cool in the face of an official visit, it would’ve been suspicious. He introduced himself as Charles Worth, a senior officer at the Omega fraternity. When he inquired about the nature of the investigation, Phil only provided the most basic facts regarding Pete Mathews,
“He’s dead?”; Charles stammered. Once again, his startled reaction ‘felt’ natural and sincere to Breckenridge.
“Yes, he is deceased. We need to fill in some blanks about the last hours of his life. I assume he ‘pledged’ here at the fraternity?”
“Um, yes, he did.. that. We are, …WERE very close to voting him into the fraternity.” Worth seemed to be at a loss to articulate sentences in view of the news.
“Do you know if he went by any other names?”; Phil fired quickly. The ‘left-field’ question was an effective tool in keeping the subject, off-guard. If he really was trying to maintain a series of coordinated lies, being forced to answer an unusual question could shake up his resolve.
“Not to my knowledge but I can ask around. Maybe one of our other members knows him better.”
“Aright, I need to ask you one more question but it’s important that you don’t try to B.S. me about it.” Phil looked Charles dead in the eye, until he nodded. “Years ago when I was in college, I pledged myself at several fraternities. While that was a long time ago, I know that hazing still goes on; despite it being officially banned.
I’m not here today to investigate hazing or Omega initiation rituals. I just need to know what you put him through. What did you make him do as part of pledge week? … and please don’t jerk me around.”